If you are running a new business or if you are a startup founder, you very well know how important networking is to drive sales. Making connections with the right people will help you know about potential business opportunities or new business ideas.
Business travel is an integral part of sales and marketing, and growing a venture. If you do not go out there and make your presence felt, it will be hard to build brand identity and gain brand recognition. So now that business travel is integral to growth, it is time to stop it from becoming a cash-guzzling cost center.
With the advent of internet and aggregator sites, it has become easy to compare the best deals available on flight tickets and hotel fares. But there is a lot more you can do than just zero in on most affordable travel and stay options. Here are a few tips for you.
1. Decide on the Best Time to Travel
Timing your business travel right will help you save hundreds of dollars. If you can be flexible with the dates of travel, then it is possible to book tickets at lowest possible rates.
Flexible date airfare search allows you to search for airfares based on the lowest possible price. If this requires you to adjust your travel by a few days, try to do so. Make a list of top few most economic fares and the corresponding dates of travel. See if you can schedule your meetings on any of these days.
If you are planning to travel to Europe check out Ryanair.com that pre-checks the ‘flexible dates’ option allowing you to go for the cheapest rates first.
If there are any popular events scheduled in your destination of travel, it will be best to push your business meetings to a few days just before or after the events. Tourist spots and major business districts will have comparatively higher travel and accommodation costs than other less prominent places.
Also, do not panic if you or a team from your company is visiting expensive cities like London, New York or Paris. These vibrant cities offer quality accommodation options that are cheap as well as convenient. Since they have business year round, smaller hotels also offer good amenities to business travelers that can hold their own against what you will find in upscale hotels.
2. Eat Sensibly
Food and drink expenses tend to bite into a chunk of a travel budget. But you need not let that happen to you.
Upscale restaurants and eateries are expensive. Even if you drop in for a quick bite, you are bound to pay for it handsomely. Consider getting your food from grocery stores where you can pick up pre-packed salads or makings for sandwiches. You can also have something hot from the deli section like a broth-based soup, or fresh fruit plates or cheese and crackers. You also get other spreads and toppings that serve as dips for veggies or taste great on crackers. Keep in mind to carry a pack or two of whole-grain crackers with you as many delis do not provide them.
Google good restaurant options near your hotel and try to walk down to the place. This will save you money on transport as well. Another option is to check whether online coupons are available for the restaurants or cafes located closest to where you stay.
3. Cut down on Luggage
One of the most important rules of smart business travel is to carry as less luggage as possible. Check-in baggage costs money and is also a pain to lug around. As far as possible, try to fit all that you need into your carry-on bag. Most airlines also allow you to carry an extra personal item like your laptop or a large purse/briefcase, and an additional item. But if you are booked on budget airlines remember that some like Spirit Airlines charge carry-on luggage, though your personal item is free. Ensure you check luggage dimensions specified on the website of your carrier.
If you are a fashionista, you might dread having to stuff everything into a carry-on bag. But this is possible if you stick to a color scheme for your outfits and wear your bulky items on the plane. Solid color outfits, say in white, gray and black, allow you to limit pieces of clothing. If you want a pop of color throw in a silk scarf or a nice jacket that can dress up the outfit.
4. Make Cost-Benefit Analysis
Though saving money should be your topmost priority, it cannot be the be-all and end-all. If you are meeting prospective clients, foremost importance should be given to forging a great relationship and making a good impression on your future customer. Even if the deal did not work out, he or she may refer you to someone else who requires your service.
Try to book into a hotel that is nice, decent and upscale. You do not want your client to drop you off after dinner at a shady looking hotel.
It is recommended to schedule business meetings over breakfast or lunch. Breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day and dinner is the most expensive, but if your client wants to see you in the evening you will have to choose a good place where you can talk shop over dinner.
So make a cost-benefit analysis and if splurging is going to win you a prized customer, go ahead and do it.
5. Be a Hard Bargainer
All businesses are willing to negotiate their prices when they see a prospective customer. This is something that they do not advertise, but a chat with the company’s customer service person will give you the discount you are looking for.
If you can promise a 10-night stay over the course of next six months, most hotels will be willing to give you a good discount and may even throw in a few freebies to coax you into buying. Hotels and airlines also offer free upgrades to loyal customers. If you are a frequent flier, ensure you stick to an airline carrier to rack up loyalty points and frequent flier miles. If you are loyal to a hotel chain, you will be pampered with discounts and upgrades, and even free stays. The benefits that come with being loyal to a service provider are many, especially in the airline and hospitality industry.
Business travel helps you grow your business, meet new people and widen your professional network. Be smart with where and when you travel, and ensure that you give topmost priority to getting a good outcome from your travel. With time, you will learn the small tricks of trade that will help you travel light, cheap and comfortably.